Pork rinds mean a lot to Luke Brimhall.
“This bag is one of the wonders of the world, in my mind. If you go out into nature and you think…look at all these cells and organisms that are working naturally to make life possible. No one person could sit there and control those billions of cells simultaneously to make them into something like that. Pork rinds are kind of the same way," he said.
That’s why Brimhall has structured his livelihood around the tasty treats. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama, but he said he was sick of the field by the time he graduated. Brimhall didn’t like the idea of working in an office, and his father suggested he run a distribution route for the family company Brim’s Snack Foods. Brim’s is a family-owned snack food manufacturer based near Memphis, Tennessee. The company produces pork rinds, cracklins, cheese puffs, popcorn and also distributes a wide variety of other products.
Luke Brimhall said he loves his job because he gets a chance to talk to people every day and hear their stories. He said one woman in particular gave him some invaluable advice when he was starting out in the delivery business.
“I was happy to help the local business, and the fact that he was trying to do it himself really impressed me. "So I let him put the first Brim’s rack in our store," said Samina Lee, owner of the Star Food Mart on "The Strip" in Tuscaloosa. She said Luke was a great vendor when he showed up.
“Every two weeks became every three and a half weeks," Lee said. "Then sometimes we’re not here for a month. Inconsistency. And I told him there would be consequences.”
Those consequences were real. “He was going to be on the back of the store where nobody stops, behind a cooler door where his chips were going to get smashed every time someone opened the door,” Lee said. Brimhall took the criticism and advice to heart. “That’s when I started viewing my job less about making sales and making money, and more about helping people," he said.
No one exemplifies that mission more than Chris Taylor. He owns Cahawba Mercantile, a discount grocer in Centreville, population 2,778. Taylor said he has a passion for helping those less fortunate.
“I want this store to be cheaper than the grocery store down the road, and still make a living. Because they need support just like I do, and we’ve all got to help each other and take care of each other,” he said. Brimhall said Brim’s products fit right in to Taylor’s mindset. “We’re a small, family-run company. We’re not a billion-dollar Utz or a Golden Flake. We don’t have shareholders or people like that, that we have to please. That allows us to provide products at an affordable, a reasonable price," Brimhall said.
And that means he can keep helping people.
“It’s not so much the chip business as it is the people business," Brimhall said. "My goal is to make that store as good as it can be. Technically, on paper, I’m working for myself. But just by doing that, in and of itself, helps everybody.”